A quarterly newsletter about achieving a land-degradation neutral world




 

IN FOCUS

Editorial

Interview


Dryland tourism
The drylands are becoming an increasingly attractive destination for tourists. For dryland communities, tourism can play a role in alleviating poverty and in supporting conservation efforts. However, larger-scale tourism can also inflict major damage on the drylands’ fragile environment. More…


From the Executive Secretary
If “tourism” is to play a role in protecting the drylands’ unique biodiversity and their natural and cultural heritage, it must be sustainable along the value chain. Eco-tourism is a promising alternative. More…


Edward Norton on sustainable dryland tourism: “It’s a learning curve”
American actor Edward Norton, UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity: “Drylands with strong biodiversity are very popular with urbanised travellers who want to get out into these vast intact ecosystems. Tourism may be depleting the very resources upon which it is based.” More…


Science

Good practice


A delicate relationship: water stress and tourism
Drylands, by definition, suffer from water stress. Tourism, on the other hand, often relies on abundant and high-quality freshwater resources and places heavy demands on local water supplies. Is there a way out of this dilemma? More…


An award-winning alliance: conservation and tourism
The NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia is one of the largest privately-owned reserves in Africa and was rewarded with the Tourism for Tomorrow Award in 2012. It offers sustainable tourism experiences while conserving healthy land and biodiversity. More…

MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY

Dryland tourism: Avoiding the double-edged sword

The world’s drylands are often harsh environments. Their aridity, erratic rainfall and climate variability make living here a challenge. And yet they are becoming increasingly popular holiday destinations. Tourists are drawn to experience nature in its purest form, to glimpse some of the world’s rarest and most elusive wildlife, to marvel at vast and breathtaking desert landscapes, and to enjoy unspoilt beaches. Yet some dryland ecosystems suffer from the growing impact of tourism while others struggle to find a healthy balance between tourism and sustainable development.

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For dryland communities, tourism can generate new economic opportunities and play a role in alleviating poverty. Tourism can also support conservation efforts. However, dryland and desert ecosystems are extremely sensitive to human activity. How can this fragile environment cope with larger-scale tourism and the associated water, energy and infrastructure demands? Will local communities genuinely benefit from tourism or will the tour operators and investors take the lion’s share?

I am sure you will agree with me that if tourism is to play a role in controlling desertification and protecting the drylands’ unique biodiversity and their natural and cultural heritage, it must be sustainable along the value chain. Eco-tourism is a promising alternative that takes account of the ecological limits of dryland ecosystems and minimises adverse impacts on fragile environments.

This issue of UNCCD News takes a look at dryland tourism. We explore this important topic just in time for UNCCD’s COP11, which will be hosted by Namibia, one of the world’s most popular dryland destinations. The theme of the conference, which will take place from 16 to 27 September 2013, is “a stronger UNCCD for a land-degradation neutral world”. During the conference, the organisers are offering tours to some of Namibia’s most famous dryland destinations such as Etosha National Park. Participants will be able to see for themselves how vital it is that UNCCD stakeholders reinforce their commitment to a land-degradation neutral world at COP11. I am very pleased that, in advance of the conference, Edward Norton, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, has kindly agreed to share his thoughts on sustainable tourism in this issue of UNCCD News.

At the same time, we should not forget the severe drought situation facing Namibia. According to UNICEF, a third of the population are currently either severely or moderately food insecure. We are all aware of the need to build communities’ resilience to severe weather events which have become more frequent, over the years, as a result of climate change. How can tourism, or any other form of economic development, strengthen communities’ ability to cope with natural disasters?

There’s no doubt that dryland tourism can only prosper in an unspoilt environment based on healthy land. So I encourage dryland communities in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas to join in our efforts to protect land and soils so that tourists who are lucky enough to visit the drylands have truly unforgettable experiences while dryland communities simultaneously build a truly sustainable future.

“Dryland tourism can only prosper in an unspoilt environment based on healthy land.”



Luc Gnacadja
Executive Secretary



A facelift for UNCCD News

Starting with this issue, the editorial board is making some changes to UNCCD News. From now on, the online newsletter will appear quarterly instead of bimonthly, so you can expect the next edition towards the end of the year. The second change is quite obvious: After four years, we have given UNCCD News a bit of a facelift. We hope that you like it and continue to enjoy reading the newsletter!

Earlier this year, we invited our readers to participate in a short survey. The bad news is that very few readers took part, but the good news is that their feedback was generally very positive. We seem to be on the right track. Thank you to everyone who provided input. Do you have any further comments? Or ideas for topics to be covered? Please feel free to contact us at newsbox@unccd.int.


IN FOCUS

Tourism: blessing or curse for the world’s drylands?

The drylands are becoming an increasingly attractive destination for tourists, offering the prospect of income generation and boosting development. But if tourism is not managed sustainably, it can damage the sensitive and fragile environment on which it depends. Reconciling these two objectives with sustainable management of the drylands is something of a balancing act.

The main attraction of many dryland destinations is their natural environment and rich biodiversity: vast and pristine arid landscapes, elusive wildlife, and a pastoral way of life in a sparsely populated environment. In the African drylands, for example, tourism is built around biodiversity and gamewatching, with safaris designed to ensure that tourists catch a glimpse of large “charismatic” mammals such as lion and elephant or the mass seasonal migrations of large herbivores.

But dryland tourism does not have to mean a safari. In Argentina’s Cuyo and Patagonia regions, tourism is centred around outdoor sports: trekking, riding and cycling. Here, tourists can also get a taste of the local culture with cookery classes using traditional ingredients or by helping out on farms. And paradoxically, in some regions with little rainfall, particularly the Mediterranean, water is the main attraction: visitors come to relax on the sandy beaches or to go sailing or wind-surfing. Dryland tourism takes many different forms – indeed, it is diverse as the drylands themselves.


Dryland tourism is diverse as the drylands themselves.



Tourism – facts and figures

  • - Tourism encompasses many different modes of transport (coach tours,
    cruises, public transport) and accommodation (from 600-bed 5-star resorts
    to backpackers’ hostels and camping in the wilderness), and a wide
    range of activities: outdoor (hiking, rafting), culture (sightseeing, museums,
    theatre), education (workshops and seminars), sports (local tournaments,
    international sporting events) and indulgence (spas, wellbeing).
  •  
  • - According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism accounts
    for 5% of the world’s GDP, providing one in twelve jobs worldwide.
    The share of tourism in developing countries is steadily increasing,
    up from 31% in 1990 to 47% in 2010.
  •  
  • - Tourism generates wealth and can play a key role in the achievement of
    the MDGs: MDG 1 (eradication of poverty), MDG 3 (gender equality),
    MDG 7 (environmental sustainability), and MDG 8 (global partnerships
    for development).
  •  
  • - Tourism requires an infrastructure: local airports, transport, a food
    supply network, etc.

Opportunities and constraints

Tourism offers significant economic opportunities. It drives infrastructural investment and also boosts employment. “Tourism’s capacity to create jobs is central to this debate,” said Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). “We cannot forget that for every job created in tourism, many more jobs are created in other sectors.” In Kenya, the tourism industry accounts for around 400,000 jobs in the formal sector and around 600,000 informal-sector jobs. Tourism also creates a market for local produce, and in areas where wildlife and the natural environment are the basis of the industry, it puts a value on these environmental assets and provides a major incentive for their conservation.

However, dryland tourism can compete with other livelihoods over access to natural resources, such as energy. Providing enough water to support tourism poses particular challenges in the already arid environment of the drylands. In warm environments, tourists tend to use much more water than locals, both for personal hygiene and for drinking. In some parts of Spain, tourists’ water consumption is up to seven times higher than that of the local population. Tourists’ personal water demand puts the local water supply under additional stress, and this is exacerbated by water consumption in tourist facilities such as swimming pools, golf courses and gardens. (See article on water in this issue.)

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There are economic threats as well. An over-reliance on tourism, which is essentially a luxury sector, can put local livelihoods at risk if there is a decline in visitor numbers and revenue, perhaps because the industry has failed to keep pace with changing economic conditions. In some places, tourism is associated with the exploitation of the local workforce, low pay and poor working conditions, with profits going to tour operators and major companies rather than local communities.

It is, however, the tourism-related threats to land, the environment and ecosystems which give greatest cause for concern in the context of the UNCCD, because land is the asset that meets these needs. Dryland and desert ecosystems are extremely sensitive to human activity and large-scale tourism can impact severely on the environment and biodiversity. A failure to limit visitor numbers at popular sites can quickly damage fragile natural resources. Worst still, the construction of infrastructure, hotels and amenities can consume and degrade land, destroy ecosystems and deprive local communities of their access to traditional grazing, farmland or sites of cultural significance.


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In the Dominican Republic, for example, land degradation and soil erosion have affected almost 70 per cent of the country. Some of this is caused by logging activities to make way for the development of the tourism infrastructure. Today, hotel complexes blight its mountain landscapes and have damaged watersheds and caused erosion. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, land degradation and desertification are impacting on rivers and coastal waters, including beaches and reefs. This has a negative effect on tourism, creating a vicious cycle as tourism puts pressure on sensitive areas, intensifying land-related challenges.

Even low-impact forms of tourism, such as trekking, can damage drylands’ sensitive ecosystems: in Nepal, which is already suffering the effects of deforestation, the problem is worsened by fuel wood collection for use on treks, with each trekker using as much as four to five kilos of wood a day. And in some drylands, fire is a problem, especially during the tourist season, which tends to be the hottest and driest period of the year. A lack of care by tourists can cause major conflagrations.

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The only viable option: Sustainable tourism

Tourism in the drylands depends on an intact natural environment, and land degradation and other environmental impacts reduce their appeal to tourists. But in these fragile environments, what strategies should be adopted to minimise the impacts of larger-scale tourism?

The answer in the drylands and elsewhere is sustainable tourism. This is a prerequisite for the conservation of healthy ecosystems in tourism areas.


Sustainable tourism and ecotourism – what’s it about?

The World Tourism Organization offers the most widely accepted definition of sustainable tourism: “Tourism that leads to the management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems”.

Sustainable tourism means more energy efficiency and a lower carbon footprint through the use of renewable energies. It means less water consumption and waste, and a focus on the conservation of biodiversity, cultural heritage and traditional values. It should support intercultural understanding, and generate income for local communities in order to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty. According to UNEP, making tourism businesses more sustainable benefits local communities and raises awareness and support for the sustainable use of natural resources. All forms of tourism can strive to be more sustainable.

However, sustainability does not necessarily mean ecotourism, which is a segment within the tourism sector that focuses on environmental sustainability. Ecotourism aims to minimise the negative impact of tourism, build environmental and cultural awareness and respect, provide direct financial benefits for conservation and local communities, and empower local people – all of which are highly relevant to the drylands.

The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution stressing ecotourism’s role in the fight against poverty and the protection of the environment. It recognises that “ecotourism creates significant opportunities for the conservation, protection and sustainable use of biodiversity and of natural areas by encouraging local and indigenous communities in host countries and tourists alike to preserve and respect the natural and cultural heritage”.

According to experts, it is not only sustainable tourism but ecotourism which has major potential to contribute to income and livelihoods in the drylands, for it can provide the motivation that local communities need to maintain and protect the forests and wildlife on which tourism depends. If local people generate income and employment from ecotourism, they are less likely to deplete these natural resources through overexploitation.


But what does this mean for the drylands in practice? What kinds of practical economic and sustainable land management approaches can be adopted here with a view to maintaining a healthy natural environment that supports sustainable tourism?

There are many different options, but appropriate activities can include production and marketing of organic products such as coffee and cocoa beans. The creation of a market for non-timber forest products (e.g. honey or berries) can provide incentives to preserve the forests.

A further option is agro-tourism: indigenous or local communities offer farm tours and invite tourists to participate in sustainable growing, harvesting and processing of local foods, perhaps combined with homestay and cultural activities. Through the sale of crafts and cultural performances, they share with visitors their traditional knowledge and worldview and generate incomes from their productive activities.


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Conservation fees, taxes and donations from eco-tourists are a good source of revenue to fund conservation and sustainable development projects. National park authorities can also compensate neighbouring pastoralists for tolerating wildlife on their land, thus supporting the conservation of local wildlife as the basis for tourism. This approach is currently being utilised in lands adjacent to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. With this revenue and perhaps with donors’ support, local communities can establish community facilities such as wells, schools and hospitals.

Tourism can create new economic opportunities for dryland communities, helping to reduce poverty and supporting the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. It also has a role to play in combating desertification, but for that to happen, it must be sustainable all along the value chain. Eco-tourism respects the drylands’ ecological limits and aims to minimise the negative impacts on these sensitive environments.

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INTERVIEW

Edward Norton on sustainable dryland tourism: “It’s a learning curve”

American actor, film director and producer Edward Norton is not only a well-known figure in Hollywood, but has also been a successful environmental activist for many years. In 2010, he became United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. In Kenya, Edward Norton is a Board member of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. In this interview with UNCCD News, he takes a critical look at the unsustainable developments in the tourism industry and talks about good practice.

What makes drylands (e.g. in Africa) attractive to tourists?

Well, not all dryland systems are necessarily tourism destinations. But obviously those with strong biodiversity remaining in them are very popular with increasingly urbanised travellers who want to get out into these vast intact ecosystems.

Wildlife draws people... as simple as that. I think we feel an ancient connection to the landscapes and the animals that all humans lived amidst until very recently. It’s a demonstrated fact that biodiversity-related tourism... including marine tourism with scuba and such... is a massive industry. Arguably, it’s more significant in terms of gross dollars and definitely more sustainable than many of the extractive industries that we’re allowing to degrade critical ecosystems and drive biodiversity loss.

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Can you tell us a little about your own personal experience, especially with regard to the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust?

I've been involved with the building of a community-based organisation down in the Maasai communities of the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem since about 2002. It’s called the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and I'm head of the Board now.


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My first experience meeting people from the Maasai community was at the fantastic eco-lodge called Campi Ya Kanzi, which is down in the Kuku Maasai Group Ranch in the Chyulu Hills. At first I was like any other visitor to this community-owned eco-tourism operation... just in awe of the landscape and the wildlife and fascinated by the culture of the Maasai. They were incredibly welcoming and wonderful guides into the environment.

“I was in awe of the landscape and the wildlife and fascinated by the culture of the Maasai.”


I was very struck by a guy named Samson Parashina who had a very focused and sophisticated interest in helping his community evolve in its management of natural resources to create a sustainable economic and cultural future. I’ve spent a lot of time working on conservation issues and have been around a lot of professional conservationists all my life and I thought “This guy is the real deal... I should be trying to help him.” So I got involved in supporting the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust that he started with the Italian conservationist Luca Belpietro, who originally founded Campi ya Kanzi with the community. After 10 years of working on it together, the Trust is now a globally recognised and highly awarded organisation.

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When you look back at your own travel in recent years, which effects of tourism on ecosystems have you come across?

In the last 25 years, the number of people who are travelling further and further abroad to more remote places to have these types of experiences has just gone up exponentially. So places that just a decade or two ago were inhabited by truly remote indigenous communities are suddenly having to balance the economic benefit of new waves of tourism and yet figure out how they do that without destroying the very thing that’s bringing the people to them.

A good example of sustainable tourism is the Soneva Fushi Resort in the Maldives. It is really doing it right and going all the way. Not only is there a return on investment in terms of its own balance sheet; it also reverberates in terms of marketing – because there are more and more people who care, so you can distinguish yourself from the badly-operated places if you can demonstrate that you’re concerned with the same values as your visitors.

It’s a learning curve, but it’s gratifying when you run into people who are in a certain industry and they’re not waiting for things to happen at the policy or the regulatory level to try to move their business forward into some kind of a more sustainable configuration. Soneva Fushi is doing it. Richard Branson is doing it. Those folks are inspiring and smart.

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Which conclusions can be drawn from this?

One is sustainability of operations – how are you actually operating your business, and are you operating it in a way that will maintain the natural resource capital that your business is based on. Number two is community benefit. How do we assess community benefit, to what degree is a tourism business representing a micro-economy where actual benefit is penetrating meaningfully into the local community, as opposed to a vortex where all the benefit is coming in through the business and then going out of the country.

When people talk about the “extractive industries”, they mean forestry, fishing and mining – the industries that clearly extract from the environment. We don’t tend to think of tourism as one of the extractive industries, but the more I learn about it, the more I think that tourism should be judged on the same types of metrics by which many of those other extractive industries are judged. I say that because tourism is an industry that uses the environment as its draw to give an experience but yet may, at the end of the day, be depleting the very resources upon which it depends.

“Tourism may be depleting the very resources upon which it depends.”


The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity" (TEEB) makes a very persuasive case that things that we have accounted as GDP growth or profit represent impoverishment or loss. This is an incredibly important way of approaching the question of environmental preservation and sustainability because it helps us move away from the 20th century strategy of arguing for the intrinsic value of nature, and into what I think is going to be the strategy for the 21st century, which is the argument that people cannot thrive if we don’t account for the underlying economics of ecosystem services. And that’s a profound shift.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognises that ecotourism plays a key role in the protection of the environment. Do you share this view?

Absolutely. We need a new narrative. We need a narrative where we relocate ourselves literally within the biosphere. We have looked at ourselves for a long time as exceptional, as disconnected from the natural systems on the planet that support us, and we need a new narrative in which people on a broad global level become conscious and aware of their interconnectedness with those systems. So helping to get that story out there, helping people reframe their sense of themselves in the world in a way they understand that they are reliant – and their children are reliant – on the health of these systems, so they care about it, is important.

What do you think a tourist interested in travelling to a dryland destination should consider in terms of sustainable land use/management?

The thing about tourism is that it is based on the allure of having an experience in a beautiful environment, and perhaps even on interacting with nature in a certain way. Those used to be experiences which were accessed only by a very privileged few.

I think if you ask most people if they want to ruin a place during their visit they would say no. I think most people don’t want to feel that they came to a place and trashed it.

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People talk about carbon footprint but I think the thing that is assessed less often is water. In many of the most remote places, whether they are beach resorts or safari lodges, the way that these places use water is a fundamentally problematic issue. Guests are looking for luxury, so tourism operators are afraid to ask the guests to change their narrative of what luxury means to them in the place they are visiting.

What’s your message to the tourism industry?

Tourism operators have to be courageous in the sense that they’ve got to be a part of introducing people to that value system, not because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s in their best interests economically in the long term.

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SCIENCE

A delicate relationship: water stress and tourism

Drylands, by definition, suffer from water stress. Tourism, on the other hand, often relies on abundant and high-quality freshwater resources and places heavy demands on local water supplies. Is there a way out of this dilemma or do we simply have to declare the drylands off-limits for the development of larger-scale tourism?

Most dryland tourists are not aware of their high water consumption for food and beverages alone. They don’t consider that a single tomato in their salad at dinner takes 14 litres of freshwater to ripen. Long showers are perceived as a holiday treat. Clean toilet facilities are taken for granted. Keeping the hotel gardens and golf courses lush and green takes a lot of water, and laundry, dishwashing, facility cleaning and, of course, swimming pools all mount up on tourists’ water bill. Even safaris need water, relying on water holes to attract wildlife. Nonetheless, water consumption varies considerably and is much higher at large resorts with lavish pool areas than, say, at farm-based guesthouses which are managed sustainably.



Studies show that water use by tourists exceeds local consumption by at least 200 per cent, with some research even putting the figure as high as 700 per cent. According to a study by Tourism Concern, which has explored the problem of water in 17 destination countries, water issues are a serious and growing problem in all the countries surveyed, with water demand now outstripping supply from sustainable sources in many regions. In Spain, for example, holiday homes and golf courses have increased water demand by 30 million cubic metres per year.

Ironically, tourism’s peak seasons with extraordinary high water use usually coincide with the driest and hottest seasons in the drylands. Water shortages and drought are the inevitable consequence. During the drought in Majorca in the mid-1990s, the Spanish government had no option but to import water by ship from the mainland to serve the tourist areas.

Often, tourism-induced water stress seriously impacts local communities, agriculture, natural habitats and ecosystems, undermining their sustainable development – a rarely acknowledged infringement of the fundamental human right to water. Water is also a justice issue: a luxury tourist lodge in Africa has a swimming pool for guests and is permitted to access water via its own borehole. However, Tourism Concern reports that the country’s government has refused to re-open a borehole for indigenous Bushmen, forcing them to make a 300 km round trip or collect water from depressions in the sand – a clear sign of a serious lack of equality and justice.

Simple solutions to the problem are scarce. Nonetheless, there are various options to address water stress. On a macro scale, better technologies are now available for recycling and reuse of wastewater and for water desalination in drylands. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, there is a heavy reliance on desalination and wastewater treatment plants. However, technological solutions of this kind are based on a high level of energy consumption and are not necessarily sustainable. Then there are small-scale, low-cost solutions such as slow-flow shower heads and more efficient toilet systems.

The good news is that there is now a growing trend towards sustainable water use in tourism. The industry is experiencing an upsurge in interest in water-related issues, such as improved water storage capabilities and water conservation. Technologies for recycling and reuse of wastewater have also improved. Some stakeholders are calling for more stringent regulatory frameworks for water management in the tourism industry.

Above all, it is the growing trend towards ecotourism that is having a very positive impact on water. Sustainable tourism is the way forward, and ecotourism is on the rise, with positive effects on water. The scientific community provides sound data and should continue to develop high-quality solutions, and above all, the tourism industry itself must consider its impacts on local communities and the environment, and speed up its transition towards sustainability.



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World Tourism Day 2013 on Water

Water in tourism is an increasing focus of attention at the international level: the UN General Assembly has declared 2013 as the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation, and this year’s World Tourism Day (WTD) on 27 September 2013 is dedicated to tourism’s contribution to worldwide water conservation efforts.

“It is the responsibility of the tourism sector to take a leadership role and ensure companies and destinations invest in adequate water management throughout the value chain,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai in his official WTD 2013 message. “If managed sustainably, tourism can bring benefits to the national and local communities and support water preservation. I urge all those involved in the tourism sector to join our global World Tourism Day campaign and continue to devise innovative solutions to ensuring sustainable access to water resources worldwide.”

GOOD PRACTICE

An award-winning alliance: conservation and tourism

It all began in 1992 on a sheep farm at the eastern edge of the Namib Desert, where the land was affected by severe drought, desertification and the collapse of natural ecosystems. Albi Brückner, a Namibian-born businessman who had bought the farm some ten years earlier, decided to stop all farming activities and make the area the nucleus of what is today the NamibRand Nature Reserve, one of the largest privately-run conservation projects in Africa.

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Albi Brückner and his partners were inspired by the vision of free-roaming wildlife in an open sanctuary. They removed more than 1,500 km of fences and embarked on the task of rehabilitating the natural environment. Today, the 172,000-hectare Nature Reserve is home to many reintroduced species such as cheetah, leopard and lion, and springbok, kudu, zebra and oryx. It is firmly committed to protecting and preserving the unique ecology and wildlife of the south-west Namib Desert, with a focus on seasonal migratory wildlife routes and biodiversity.

Tourism to fund conservation

But conservation work doesn’t come cheap. The Nature Reserve needs a constant revenue stream to continue its work in protecting local ecosystems and biodiversity. From the early days, the founders of NamibRand recognised that sustainable tourism was a good way of generating the income that was needed. “Low-impact ecotourism is a means towards sustaining our conservation efforts through park fees. The five tourism concessions awarded by the Reserve each pay a daily, per-bed fee to the Reserve. The funds generated through these park fees enable the Reserve to be financially self-sustaining, says Nils Odendaal, Chief Executive Officer of the NamibRand Nature Reserve.

Sustainable tourism generates the income needed for conservation.


The Nature Reserve advertises a wealth of options for exploring the natural environment, making it a very distinctive tourist destination. Hot air ballooning provides great views over the landscape, while wildlife and geology can be experienced on guided hikes. Visitors can also volunteer to take part in nature conservation projects, such as helping to reintroduce cheetah and leopard – something that the Namibia Tourism Board is keen to report.

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A wide-ranging sustainability approach

All camps, lodges and other establishments in the Nature Reserve comply with sustainability standards, with solar-powered accommodation and a restricted number of guest-beds (one bed per 1,000 hectares, with no more than 20 guest-beds at any one location). Organic waste is turned into compost for use in a vegetable garden. Water is conserved and metered to monitor usage. Off-road driving is prohibited in order to protect sensitive ecosystems.

Alongside its commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism, the Nature Reserve is also involved in environmental education with the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust. Located in the Nature Reserve, the Trust provides Namibian school children with practical hands-on experience of conservation and sustainability with the aim of promoting eco-friendly attitudes and skills.

In an effort to promote economic sustainability, the Nature Reserve supports community business initiatives, such as a laundry service for the lodges and camps and a bus service to Windhoek and other towns. A Desert Academy aims to train young Namibians for a future career in the hospitality industry.


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The Nature Reserve’s awareness-raising activities focus on sustainability in land management and tourism. Through its Adopt-a-Fairy-Circle Project, visitors can sponsor one of the thousands of black sand spots that appear throughout the Namib Desert. The funds from the Project support the Foundation’s work.

Awareness-raising activities on sustainability in land management and tourism


NamibRand also aims to contribute to the national body of scientific knowledge with its Desert Research and Awareness Centre.

... a rewarded role model

The NamibRand Nature Reserve’s unique landscapes and rich biodiversity have delighted many travellers. Reviews on the TripAdvisor website are enthusiastic, calling it “a fantastic place of geologic wonder” with “beautiful, vast and open nature” and “scenic landscapes and endless horizons [that] will steal your heart away”. In 2012, NamibRand’s aspiration to be a model of conservation through sustainable tourism was rewarded by the industry itself, with a Tourism for Tomorrow Award from the World Travel and Tourism Council in recognition of its best practice role in sustainable tourism worldwide. The story of its transformation – from degraded and drought-stricken land to a successful model of sustainable tourism – must surely inspire everyone who is working to combat land degradation worldwide.

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About the UNCCD

Developed as a result of the Rio Summit, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is a unique instrument that has brought attention to the land degradation affecting some of the most vulnerable people and ecosystems in the world. The UNCCD has 195 Parties (194 countries plus the European Union) and is one of the three Rio Conventions, along with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The UNCCD is increasingly recognised as an instrument that can make an important contribution to the achievement of sustainable development and poverty reduction.

For more information: Awareness Raising, Communication and Education Unit, UNCCD
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UNCCD News is published by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

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Photo credits: Contents: Joachim Huber/wikimedia commons; UNCCD; jurvetson/flickr.com; Valle Romano Golf & Resort/flickr.com; NamibRand Safaris (www.wolwedans.com); Message: UNCCD; Kristy Siegfried/IRIN; In Focus: CanWeBowlPlease/flickr.com; Valle Romano Golf & Resort/flickr.com; Danie Racovitan/flickr.com; DFID/flickr.com; Soneva; NamibRand Safaris (www.wolwedans.com); Interview: Kate Butler; 2x Campi ya Kanzi; 2x Soneva; Campi ya Kanzi; Science: Alain Lacroix/dreamstime.com; djembe/dreamstime.com; Valle Romano Golf & Resort/flickr.com; Gabriel Rocha/flickr.com; Good Practice: 4x NamibRand Safaris (www.wolwedans.com).